No luck to it: Jordan Luck

Few artists truly encapsulate the characteristics that come with a Kiwi music legend. Years of experience, song longevity and lyrical genius under his belt, Jordan Luck built his way to the top of the charts, and Kiwi hearts. Metropol writer Nina Tucker catches up with him about the landscape of music and what he’s up to now.

“Love.” That’s what keeps the Jordan Luck Band playing stages across the country, bringing music to ever-listening ears. He says he’ll never stop. “Musicians don’t retire. We just keep singing and writing.” That’s what he’s been doing for over forty years. From the beginning with his local and Canterbury-loved debut band Basement, to The Dance Exponents and soon after, The Exponents, to now with his namesake Jordan Luck Band. The current lineup, Jordan, Beaver, Rich Mixture, Bryan Bell, and Joe Walsh, have been together for over 14 years.

When the 1983 classic, Victoria, was just 10 years old, Jordan wondered if it would still be a hit in another decade. There’s no clarification necessary. Fans still chase his shows. “Humbled,” he says, on the response the band continues to receive from the public. The songs have survived all kinds of music periods, from the violent 80s to the adoring 90s, and the communal, cross-age audiences of now. “Being a good live band is kind of useful.” Like the longevity of each song, Jordan says a loyal following develops over time. “You’ve got to last 10 years. Only a handful of artists have been going as long as I have.” He noted bands like L.A.B and Six60 forging the future, and classics like The Chills, The Bats, and Sir Dave Dobbyn as his fellows.

No matter the number of chart-topping hits, Jordan still performs believing the audience is completely oblivious. It’s all in the attitude, he adds, “No one’s seen us before. No one knows these songs.” Authentic from the process to the performance, Jordan says his music is loved so deeply by New Zealanders because it’s connected to the country altogether. “Lyrically, and sometimes melodically, it comes from where you’ve grown up.”

With an age-old connection to Christchurch, and six years in Little River, Jordan never discriminated against any venues. With The Dance Exponents, “It didn’t matter the size of the venue, you took the show you were doing and transported it all around New Zealand.” He says touring the country is “beautiful,” and the changes that occur from city to season are “incredible.” Now, the Jordan Luck Band plays at venues they never would have 20 years ago.

When scoping out the Jordan Luck Band, he called on people he already loved. “I just knew they would be fun on the road, fun on a plane, fun on a boat. When you’re not having fun, it’s still good. Or, when things are bad, it’s still good.” Jordan adds they’re tight with each other and their crew, whether they’re on the road or not. “Always look after your crew,” he notes.

Sometimes, Jordan wonders whether he’ll still be producing music in five years. He adds he’s felt like that since early The Dance Exponents days. “There’s lots of self-examination, it’s that confidence thing.” His first taste of music with Basement showed a fascinatingly enjoyable and doable future, and Jordan explains they still “have as much fun as the audience does.”

Jordan’s songs simply find him. “The songs, for me, come out of the ether. They’re there and you grab them. I’m not sure if it’s attacking me or invading me or if I’m just able to catch it, I just know it happens.” Even with the advances in technology, Jordan explains he avoids recording each melody as it comes to him. When a song reaches him once, it’s great, when it comes twice, it’s a sign. Only then will Jordan reach for his phone to record it.

While his music mind spins, so do that of the young. Jordan recalled watching a younger man at a recent show completely spiral into awe watching the band play. “His jaw dropped.” Jordan remembered it was like watching someone discover music for the first time: “Is that what makes that sound?” It happens often, Jordan adds, because live music is an entire experience of songs, volume, beat, rhythm, and interaction with the artists.

He’s offered his time to inspire and encourage the music of others, outside of the songs he produces. The Play it Strange Secondary Schools Songwriting Competition, of which Jordan adjudicated for years, introduced him to new music from budding artists. “The song writing is way up there, every year. I have complete faith in the fact that there are great songs now and coming up.” The songs are downloadable to the public, and one of those artists is now two-time Grammy award winner, Kimbra. During Covid-19, time was lost for young people producing music in New Zealand and overseas, Jordan explains, “because you can play live, you see a way ahead. During Covid-19, they couldn’t do that.”

Looking forward, Jordan laughs that the band finishes their latest tour in April 2024, and won’t be repeating a previous New Zealand Music Month in May, where they played multiple shows every day for the month. They’ll be taking time out this May, but Jordan assures he’s still writing “all the time,” and anything could happen.

He might have luck in his name, but his career in New Zealand music is proof of nothing but passion. While retiring isn’t on the horizon anytime soon, Jordan says many international artists move to New Zealand following their career, and living in a country so beautiful makes it easy to consider. “If there is retirement in the future, I don’t have to go very far.”

Did you know
– Jordan and fellow Kiwi artist Johnny Devlin were the first inductees into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame in 2007. Jordan was inducted again with The Exponents in 2015.
– Jordan’s music tastes cover everything, “Classical, reggae, death metal, rap.”
– The Exponents reunited for the ‘Band Together’ benefit shortly after the 2010 Christchurch earthquake.
– Jordan holds a New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to music

See for yourself
The Jordan Luck Band is playing at Ōtautahi Smoke on 16 December and at the Tai Tapu Hotel on 2 January.

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